Hitting 30 is a big milestone. It means we have passed the age of playing about and it's time to get serious about personal finances. Many websites will tell you that you should have it all sussed out by this age: that if you didn't, you're a monumental failure.
But that's not true. It's never too late to start - as this writer found out.
Getting Thrifty in Your 30s: A Financial Case Study
Jobs with good pay are hard to come by, money flows faster than water and with the ringgit going steadily downhill, one can't help but to worry about the current financial situation in Malaysia.
It seems that a change of lifestyle is in order if one is to cope with the deteriorating state of finances in our beloved country.
I admit: I am a late bloomer when it comes to finances. Despite passing the 30 mark I didn't have the rosiest of bank balances. I was a single woman with a decent salary but very little of it was saved and almost none invested.
When I heard my friends talking about upgrading their homes and cars; I realised I was missing out because I hadn't been more prudent with my money.
The change was hard but I lived through many nights of crying over the fine dinner I was missing with my colleagues or the new handbag I couldn't afford but the thrifty lifestyle soon became a norm and things got a lot easier.
If you're a late bloomer just like me: here are some of the tips I held close to my heart when getting my financial house in order.
Lesson 1: It's NEVER Too Late to Save
While it is ideal to start saving during your 20s, not everyone may have had the means or thoughts of the future on their mind at the time. In your 20s, you might not earn as much or are too busy paying off your PTPTN loan to find your financial groove.
Many people are discouraged by their age and think: if I haven't got my head around all of this - I never will. That's not true and your pessimism will be your biggest stumbling block.
It's better late than never so don't let negative Nellies get you down!
Lesson 2: You Can Save Without Sacrificing Pleasure
If your budget has been written right; there's always a bit of cash for fun. While you might think this is not the thrifty way, it is certainly more realistic to make sure you have a healthy balance rather than suffer burnout midway through your goals.
Allocate a sum you can afford and stick to it. It will be difficult in the beginning but not nearly as bad as if you had cut out entertaining budgets completely.
Lesson 3: Keep to a Specific Budget
That said, having a budget that you keep to is imperative. But you probably already knew this. Keeping track of the ins and outs did wonders to my spending psychology.
Lesson 4: No Amount is Too Small to Save
Just like no age is too old; no sum is too small when you are looking to correct financial mismanagement. Even if you save RM5 everyday from foregoing your evening snack or tea - it will add up in the long run.
No amount is too small and every ringgit and sen counts!
Lesson 5: Online Banking is the Way to Do it
Missing payments or worse, getting mugged at ATMs is no way to be doing your banking when you could save so much time, effort and money by using online banking.
Pay your bills, loans and everything else this way and watch your fuel spend go down along with your late fees.
Lesson 6: Procrastinate When it Comes to Shopping
Impulse buys are a big no-no! Always deliberate carefully when you are about to buy something. You will often find that if you let the urge to shop pass - it will most likely not return.
Not only will pausing the purchase potentially save you money; you'll avoid the uncomfortable feeling of buyer's remorse. If you wait and still want the item - you can then think about how to finance it because you will know you really want it and it isn't just a passing fancy.
Lesson 7: Secondhand is Not Second Best
Whether it's clothes or household items, buying secondhand should always be considered. Not only can you score a bargain - you're doing the environment a huge favour by not adding to a landfill!
You can find good quality items at bundle shops and cash converters or if you trawl the 'want to sell' pages online. Keep an eye out for people moving out as they are sure to want to discard something or the other to reduce their moving costs.
Lesson 8: Home, Single and Small
Being single allows one to adapt to smaller homes. There is no use in renting a big house with extra space, which you will only end up filling with more clutter.
Downsize your living arrangements and see just how much you can save from it all.
Lesson 9: Stop Being Air-Conned
It's no secret how hot Malaysia can get and to have an air-conditioner seems more like a necessity rather than a luxury. But using an air-conditioner can run up your electricity bill like crazy.
Cut the bill in half by using fans or 'natural' coolants like the breeze if you live in a high-rise building. Many condo units on higher floors benefit from a really cool breeze so if you are lucky enough to find one - do make the most of it!
Lesson 10: Find Cheap Alternatives
When you've got a budget to work in - you'll find yourself keeping your eyes peeled for better buys and bargains. There are always cheaper alternatives if you care to look for them.
Could you buy generic store brand detergent instead or branded? Perhaps you can carpool with a colleague instead of driving to work everyday. Maybe you could give up your hefty gym membership and take on housework and stair climbing as a means to keep fit.
However, do note your limits. Don't find alternatives for things that could detrimentally affect your health and safety. The money saved is not worth that!
Lesson 11: Invest!
It doesn't matter how averse to risk you may be - there is an investment type/account for everyone. Once your savings are at an impressive level, it's not enough to simply let it sit.
Inflation is eroding your money value every day so you need to make sure it can at least hold a portion of it's value as time passes. This means investing your savings.
If you aren't comfortable with high risk investments; a good fixed deposit is all you need. You can find one with up to 4% interest per year, which is not to shabby considering Malaysia's rate of inflation stands at 2.5% (as at June 2015) and was at 3.2% for 2014.
No matter what age you are at and whether you want to lead your life being thrifty or already are, remember it is never too late to start working towards a better future.